Site News Flax Seeds. CC photo by Flickr user digiyesica

Published on November 5th, 2009 | by Becky Striepe

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Attack of the Genetically Modified Flax Seed






[social_buttons]Nope, it’s not a spooky tale left over from Halloween. After word got out that Canada’s flax seed crops had been cross-contaminated with a genetically modified variety, the country’s entire flax industry is in peril.


When the European market got wind of the contamination, they blocked all Canadian flax imports. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, flax prices have fallen from around $11 per bushel to $2 or $3. Flax farming is $320-million industry in Canada…that is a lot of folks’ livelihoods at stake!

The strain of GM flax, called Triffid, was developed at the University of Saskatchewan in the 1990s and was supposedly taken off the market back in 2001. The contamination shows just how hard it is to keep GM crops under control.

Triffid was deemed safe for human consumption, but we really lucked out in this respect. Remember the Starlink corn fiasco? Triffid-contaminated seeds have been popping up all over Europe. The Globe and Mail reports:

Since early September, confectionery companies there have been yanking pastries and other baked goods containing flax from their shelves, blaming imports from Canada for the contamination. The genetically modified seeds have been found in 34 countries, according to the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Canadian authorities are still trying to track down the farmers who planted the Triffids. While it’s illegal to sell the GM flax, it is legal for farmers to grow it as long as they disclose that fact.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by digiyesica

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob Henry

    I couldn’t find a price under $6 a bushel for Canadian Flax seed.

    I know from this article that this flax seed has been banned but since it is still being sold, it isn’t poison. I assume.

    So the question is, since there is a GM variety that is allowed in Canada, it is important to tell us WHY this variety was banned.

  • http://nutraprointl.com Rex

    Like any other food, eating excessive amounts of flax seeds can be harmful to your health. Raw flax seeds naturally contain cyanogenic glycosides-such as linamarin, linustatin, and neolinustatin. These cyanogenic glycosides can release cyanates that can be combined with sulfur molecules in our body to form thiocyanates. Excessive amounts of thiocyanates can sometimes be a problematic for our thyroid function and, for this reason, flax seeds are considered goitrogenic. These cyanogenic glycosides are not exclusive to flaxseed and are found in brassica vegetables and cassava, with many of the health concerns regarding cyanogenic glycosides stemming from studies showing that cassava was toxic to animals and humans (McMahon and others 1995). Cassava contains significantly more cyanogenic glycosides than flaxseed.
    In addition to cyanogenic glycosides, trypsin inhibitor, linatine, and phytic acid are other antinutrients contained in flaxseed. Trypsin inhibitor activity (TIA) in flaxseed is lower than those in soybean and canola seeds.
    Other anti-nutritional compound present in flax seeds is linatine, an antipyridoxine factor. Although linatine is a problem in chicks, flaxseed has not been associated with a vitamin B6 deficiency in humans. In fact, no effect on serum pyridoxine levels in subjects consuming 45 grams of flaxseed per day over 5 wk has been observed (Dieken 1992). These data suggests that linatine is not of a concern as long as we eat less than 45 g of flax seeds a day.
    FlaxPro Ready to eat Flax seeds
    How much is too much flax seeds?
    Daun and others (2003) reported that a person would have to consume 8 cups (1 kg) of ground flaxseed to achieve acute cyanide toxicity. At the recommend daily intake of about 1 to 2 tablespoons, approximately 5 – 10 mg of hydrogen cyanide is released from flaxseed, which is well below the estimated acute toxic dose for an adult of 50 to 60 mg inorganic cyanide and below the 30 to 100 mg/d humans can routinely detoxify (Roseling 1994)
    Eating excessive amounts of flax seeds too quickly can cause mild digestive problems in some people. This means flax seeds take some getting used to. We suggest: start out with a teaspoon daily and work your way up to a tablespoon. In a balanced diet that already provides omega-3 fatty acids from other foods, one tablespoon (eight grams) of flaxseed daily will often provide enough alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to meet person’s omega-3 dietary needs.

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